Tokyo Olympics

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 04: Mary Hanna, Australian Equestrian Dressage competitor and the ol...
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The Oldest Athletes At The Tokyo Olympics Prove Age Is Truly Just A Number

These athletes bring years of experience to their respective sports.

The world of sports tends to be fixated on youth. Well, the world in general is fixated on youth, but it’s may be fair to say sports especially. At the Tokyo Summer Olympics, for instance, sports fans have been bowled over by young, pre-teen athletes competing on the world stage. But let’s make a case for longevity, shall we? The oldest athletes at the Tokyo Olympics are all kinds of inspiring. They bring years of experience to their respective sports, and perhaps most impressive? They keep on showing up to do the work.

The 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo have been unusual for so many different reasons, not the least of which being the fact that they happened in 2021 due to Covid-19 delays. On top of that, there have also been several new sports added like skateboarding, surfing, karate, sport climbing, and baseball. With all of these new sports come new athletes. Some very young, and some a little older than their competitors. Proving age is truly just a number.

Mary Hanna, Australia, 66

Mary Hanna is the oldest Olympic athlete this year.BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

Australia’s Mary Hanna is the oldest Olympic athlete in Tokyo at 66 years old. As an equestrian, she made her debut at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta in the dressage category and has continued to compete at five more games, including this year. When she’s not competing as an equestrian she’s at home in Australia spending time with her children and grandchildren.

Abdelkebir Ouaddar, Morocco, 59

Abdelkebir Ouaddar is an equestrian from Morocco.Christian Liewig - Corbis/Corbis Sport/Getty Images

Abdelkebir Ouaddar of Morocco is competing at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in team and individual jumping at 59 years old. He first competed at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, and is actually an adopted member of the Moroccan royal family. He learned to ride as a teenager alongside the royals, and yes that is very impressive.

Ni Xialian, Luxembourg 57

Ni Xialian is a table tennis player.Xinhua News Agency/Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images

Luxembourg’s Ni Xialian has broken records as an Olympic table tennis player. She first claimed the world championship title in Tokyo in 1983, and she’s back after five Olympic Games to compete again at the age of 57 years old. She spoke to Tokyo 2020 about mentoring the younger generation, explaining, "It’s a good and interesting relationship. They listen to many of my stories. I play different roles with them: I’m a mummy, a sister, an auntie, a teacher or a coach."

Phillip Dutton, U.S., 57

Phillip Dutton is a six-time Olympian.Brendan Moran/Sportsfile/Getty Images

Another equestrian, Australian-turned-American Phillip Dutton is a six-time Olympian at 57 years old. He moved to the U.S. as a 27-year-old who had been riding on his family’s sheep and cattle farm for years. He went on to make his Olympic debut at the 1996 Atlanta Games, and the rest is history. So far, at least.

Nino Salukvadze, Georgia, 52

Nino Salukvadze of Georgia.Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Nino Salukvadze is a 52-year-old sports shooter from Georgia competing at the Tokyo Olympics. These are her ninth Olympic Games, initially competing in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. What makes this year different for Salukvadze? Both she and her son, Tsotne Machavariani, will be shooting. In fact, she is even considering another Olympic Games in Paris in three years at her son’s request, as reported by Reuters.

Oksana Chusovitina, Uzbekistan, 46

Oksana Chusovitina is a gymnast from Uzbekistan.LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images

Oksana Chusovitina is a gymnast from Uzbekistan competing at her eighth Olympic Games. Considering how difficult it is physically for gymnasts to perform at any age, the fact that she is 46 years old and still competing is nothing short of incredible. When she lost her final spot on Sunday, she received a standing ovation from the crowd. And totally deserved it.

Dallas Oberholzer, South Africa, 46

Dallas Oberholzer is a skateboarder from South Africa.picture alliance/picture alliance/Getty Images

As a 46-year-old skateboarder from South Africa, Dallas Oberholzer was up against some pretty young competition at the Tokyo Olympics. But that probably doesn’t worry him, particularly since he’s really been living a life. He told The Guardian he was once nearly attacked by a jaguar in the Amazon, worked as a chauffeur for Janet Jackson, and taught skateboarding tricks to Zulu children.

Rune Glifberg, Denmark, 46

Rune Glifberg is competing in men’s skateboarding.NurPhoto/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Denmark’s Rune Glifberg is another 46-year-old skateboarder, although he’s been competing in the sport since the ‘80s and ‘90s, long before it was included in the Olympic Games. He spoke to High Snobiety about how he trains differently now that he’s in his forties, “I’m 46 now, so I have to take better care of my body. Although it’s probably minimal in comparison to a lot of the athletes there – I go to the gym around three times a week for an hour. For me, that feels like a lot of effort to put into just riding a skateboard but, otherwise, my body would sort of fall apart.”

Abdi Abdirahman, U.S., 44

Abdi Abdirahman is an Olympic long distance runner.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

U.S. Olympic long distance runner Abdi Abdirahman is racing at his fifth Olympic Games this year at age 44, and he’s the oldest runner to ever make the U.S. team. His fellow long distance runners tease him, he tells Sports Illustrated, with four-time Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah calling him “the grandpa.” Not that he minds. “But it’s OK; it’s all for the fun of the sport. That’s what makes it so great training with this group of guys,” he told the outlet. “Last year before the trials, they’re the ones that gave me the confidence—even though I did the work and did everything I could—they gave me the confidence to make the team.”

Liu Jia, Austria, 39

Liu Jia is competing in table tennis.ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images

Austria’s Liu Jia went up against the youngest athlete at this year’s Olympic Games, 12-year-old Hend Zaza of Syria, in a table tennis match, and won 4-0. The 39-year-old almost immediately went over to Zaza to comfort her after the loss. Another reason why older athletes are such great mentors.